Image Credit: Wizards of the Coast

Pro Tour Fate Reforged is almost upon us, and once again I got the chance to talk to some of the greatest minds in the game, a Platinum Pro, a Hall of Famer, a World Champion, and the principal Magic Online grinder. All four of them have played Magic for a very long time, but their careers also took very different turns. 

Those other interviews are coming up, but now we begin with a World Champion from France.

Name: Guillaume Matignon
Age: 33
Nationality: France
Team: ChannelFireball
Qualified via PTQ – 1st Place
Pro Points: 118
Pro Tour Debut: Yokohama 2003
Pro Tours played: 16
Win percentage: 60.2%
Median: 127
80%-Quantile*: 53.8
Top 8: 2 Pro Tours (1 win) and 4 Nationals (1 win)
Planeswalker Level: 46 (Archmage)
Other accomplishments: $80,095 career earnings

* = The 80% quantile is based on past results that are first normalized to a PT size of 400 players. It represents the result a player surpasses in every fifth Pro Tour on average.

Guillaume Matignon has been playing Magic for a very long time. However, his competitive career took off in the late 2000s, and despite winning French Nationals in 2007, most people first became aware of him when he made the finals of Pro Tour San Juan, where he lost to Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa. He added a Top 25 at the following Pro Tour and finished the season by winning the World Championship, which tied him with Brad Nelson for the Player of the Year title. Guillaume and Brad thus had to duke it out, heads-up at Pro Tour Paris. Although Brad emerged victorious, Guillaume had still locked up the top level in the Pro Club.

Shortly after that Pro Tour, the whole New Phyrexia set was leaked to the internet weeks before its release. It turned out that the leak was connected to a Godbook that had been given to Matignon in his work for the magazine Lotus Noir. In the aftermath, Matignon was first banned from tournament play for three years. Eventually the penalty was reduced to one year, but at that point Matignon had lost his Pro Club level, and thus his means of entry to the Pro Tour. Guillaume made his comeback only recently at Pro Tour Khans of Tarkir.

Q: Guillaume, you started playing Magic shortly after the game came out. In fact you played in the first sanctioned Magic tournament in France, which means that you also encountered the competitive scene early on. How many digits does your DCI number have? When the first World Championship was held in 1994 many considered French players to be the most technically advanced in the game. You were only in your teens back then, but did you get in touch with the competitive players back then? Do you have an impression of why French players were so successful early on? When did you start to play competitive Magic seriously?

A: So, let's go back in time. In '94–95, I was living near the shop “Le Temple du Jeu” in Bordeaux. In the early days of Magic, that shop was the most active one in France and probably in Europe, mostly thanks to the resident Judge Cyril Grillon who was extremely motivated at the time. Even before the DCI was introduced to Magic, they were organizing multiple tournaments each weekend and teaching Magic to new players like me. Cyril Grillon later became the first European Level 5 judge and even Rules Manager for Magic.

I started playing casually in September ‘94 with a group of friends from middle school, and then started attending tournaments in early '95 when Magic was finally released in French with 3rd Edition (Revised in English). Back then, the shop was rather small and they couldn't fit more than 40 players in tournaments, so they always organized a first round that was single elimination to see if you deserved to play the real tournament or not. I remember that I played a RUG deck with Kird Apes, Serendib Efreet, Scryb Sprites, Unstable Mutation, Lightning Bolt, and Giant Growth... And I lost the elimination round to Channel/Fireball, so I guess I never played my first tournament.

I never played much Magic outside of the shop at that time, so I haven't really met the big French names from that time like Bertrand Lestrée who was Parisian. I mostly heard of them by the other older players from the shop who were more active than I. But the scene was strong back then in France mostly thanks to active judges and tournament organizers. The more people play, the better they become.

So that's why I played the first DCI sanctioned event in France, a Qualifier for the '96 French Nationals in which I played a Green Three deck (Five-color green with small creatures and about 3 cards from each other color) and did horribly as I was fairly bad at Magic back then. My DCI number has six digits.

I mostly started to play seriously after the end of high school around 2000. Well seriously, I played every French Nationals starting in 1999 and European Championships in 2000, 2001, and 2002, but that doesn't mean I did well...

Q: You are not only a previous Magic: The Gathering World Champion, but also a previous World Champion of the World of Warcraft TCG. Do you play many card games competitively? What makes Magic the best TCG in your opinion?

A: Before the WoWTCG I played a lot of VS-System, too. And I also played a fair number of board games like Agricola, Puerto Rico, and the like.

Nowadays I have a full-time job in which I'm very invested so I don't really have time to play anything but Magic. Well, I don't really have enough time to play enough Magic to be good at it, too. C'est la vie.

To me there are two thing that make Magic the best game: the community and Limited.

No other game gives you the feeling of creativity when you play that you get in draft. When you draft, you create your deck as the draft is progressing, a perfect middle-ground between pure math and artistic creativity. Also the guys working at R&D are quite good at creating interesting new draft environments, renewing the challenge and the experience every time.

And the community is self-explanatory. I have been playing the game for a long time and most of my friends, even the closest ones, are playing or have played Magic. A game can only be good when you play with good friends.

Q: When it comes to Magic tournaments, you seem to be doing pretty well on the biggest stages as evidenced by your four Nationals Top 8s and two Pro Tour Top 8s. However, you never did well at Grand Prix. In fact, you don’t have a single Top 8 to your name, and in the 2010 season, you did so horribly at Grand Prix tournaments that you couldn’t even gain that single Pro Point that would have put you in front of Brad. What’s so bad about Grand Prix?

A: No offense taken, I'm bad at GPs I know. The reason I can give you for that is that I've never been really professional at Magic. Most of the years I've played a lot, I had at least a part-time job on the side, which means I've never really had enough time to prepare for any GP whereas I always take holidays for PTs and put the prep work in. Also, I never really liked to play in GPs—too huge a crowd, not enough to win to keep me motivated. So I tend to skip them most of the time.

Q: Four years ago, before you were suspended, you were at the pinnacle of professional Magic, basically a Platinum Pro. You had just won the World Championship and forced Brad Nelson to a playoff for the Player of the Year title, which you lost unfortunately. After being absent from the Pro Tour for nearly four years, you made your comeback at the last Pro Tour, Khans of Tarkir. That didn’t go too well, but you managed to win another PTQ for Fate Reforged. Considering that you have one of the best teams in history to work with, what is your goal for this Pro Tour, and the season as a whole? Is trying to become a full professional once again a thing that is on your mind?

A: I'm testing with CFB for this PT, a small no-name team of amateurs of good food and good puns. It’s way funnier to test with them.

And that's basically my goal at Magic right now, having fun playing at the highest level. I don't think I have enough motivation or time to be one of the best ever again. But getting as close as possible to being good while having fun is good enough for me right now.

Further reading

Interview by Antoine Ruel on CFB before the PotY play-off
Wikipedia